All in the family

As the new chair of Spain’s Santander bank, Ana Botin becomes the most powerful woman banker in Europe.

The day following the death of Emilio Botin, who headed Spain's Santander bank, his daughter Ana Botin, aged 54, was appointed chair of the bank, making her the most powerful woman banker in Europe, reports Parisian business daily Les Échos.

With assets amounting to 1.2 trillion euros, Santander is the second-largest bank in Europe by market valuation, according to Bloomberg. This is largely thanks to Emilio Botin’s efforts. During the course of his 30 years at the helm, Botin transformed Santander from a modest national establishment to an international powerhouse, with acquisitions in Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, Mexico and Poland. Spain now represents only a small part of the institution's revenue.

The nomination of a Botin family member "continues the story of a true financial dynasty [that began with] its foundation in 1857," notes Les Échos.

As the oldest of six children and with 26 years’ experience at Santander, Ana Botin appeared as the most likely successor to her father. Since 2010, she has led the British arm, crucial to the bottom line. A graduate in economics from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and fluent in five languages, Botin began her career at J.P. Morgan, first in Madrid, then in New York, and was already a vice-president at age 24.

In an interview with Santander's in-house magazine in 2005, Botin said she wanted women to have the same opportunities as men. At the Banesto subsidiary that she was running at the time, she encouraged staff to avoid meetings past 7 p.m. to avoid disruption to families.

According to Bloomberg, as of February 2014, women at the 10 largest euro zone banks held about 5% of key executive jobs, compared with 16% at the 10 largest American banks. However, a woman has yet to take the top spot at a US bank.